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Head coverings #1: the logic of glory and veiling
11 minutes to read While head covering debates get mired in disagreement about cultural customs and what Paul meant about the angels, they ignore the central logic of 1 Corinthians 11—that only one glory should be on display in worship. Veiling still matters in the modern day because God’s glory still matters in worship—and that is what is at stake.
For nearly two years I have been chipping away at an article on head coverings, which inevitably became a series, and is now looking steadily more like a book. As I delved deeper and greedilier, the nature of the command as one for the whole congregation, across time and space, became transparent. But pinpointing where to start in explaining this proved a vexation, because all the pieces fit together in self-reinforcing ways.
This is still a problem I will have to overcome in the next part of this series, but thanks to Bill Mouser, [ Willam Mouser, Hair and Worship (February 2007). Bill is also the author of the excellent The Story of Sex in Scripture.] I can at least cut through the web of ideas by focusing on what Paul’s central argument actually is. Nearly no one—myself included—seems to pick up on it, though it is startlingly obvious once pointed out.
Paul’s central argument for veiling
Paul’s concern about head coverings derives from straightforward inferences about the nature of glory stated in verses 7 and 15 of 1 Corinthians 11:
4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. 5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man… 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? 1 Corinthians 11:4–7, 14–15
Notice that Paul lists three different glories: God’s, man’s, woman’s. Presumably he took as obvious the implications of all these glories being simultaneously present in worship. The inference about why it is disgraceful for a woman to pray uncovered, and vice versa for a man, didn’t bear spelling out for him—but it unfortunately does for us, because we have inattentive, tin ears. So here it is, chopped into small enough pieces for us to chew:
Premise 1: There are three glories present in worship;
Premise 2: It is scandalous for a glory other than God’s to be shown off in worship;
Conclusion: Therefore, the other two glories must be covered.
We could end here and have an airtight argument for veiling, but it might not be very helpful since there’s a lot to understand. So let’s work through each premise in turn.
Premise 1: There are three glories present in worship
As plainly stated in verses 7 and 15, the glories are as follows:
- The glory of God (namely man)
- The glory of man (namely woman)
- The glory of woman (namely her long hair)
What does this mean? Before I answer, please observe something (I have nothing up my sleeve):
Even if we can’t figure out what Paul means by describing these three glories, we are required to believe him, because this a revealed truth breathed out by God.
In other words, even if we could not explain what it means that man is the glory of God, and woman is the glory of man—a shockingly offensive-sounding statement to modern ears, after all—and a woman’s long hair is her glory—almost as offensive in a world where we dare not deny the cuteness of pixies and bobs for dread of the nearest Karen—even if we had not the slightest clue what all this meant, we would still have to accept on faith that Paul did, and that he stated it in order for us to believe it.
His statement is obviously not culturally-relative. What would it mean that man was the glory of God in ancient Corinth, but no longer today? No, these are creational statements, describing matters of fact about the design of mankind—not matters of fashion in first century Roman society.
This should be obvious from the get-go, but it becomes even clearer when we examine how Scripture uses this kind of language elsewhere.
What it means to be “the glory” of a thing
Glory, to use the language of my children, is that which is most majestical or splendifurious about a thing (cf. Psalm 21:5). It is what we think of when we ask what is great about it. It is the thing deserving greatest honor (cf. 1 Peter 3:7; 1 Corinthians 12:24). When the Old Testament authors considered God, for instance, one thing that was especially great about him was his strength and supernatural power (e.g., Exodus 14:17; 16:7; 1 Chronicles 16:24; Psalm 19:1; 29:1, 9 etc).
What does it mean for something to be the glory of a person, though? A representative example appears in Proverbs:
The glory of young men is their strength,
but the splendor of old men is their gray hair. Proverbs 20:29
Here, two glories are “rhymed.” What is especially great about young men, especially noteworthy, especially worth celebrating, is their strength. Conversely, with old men, it is their gray hair—a physical image of wisdom and a life well lived, to rhyme with the physical strength of young men (cf. Proverbs 16:31).
Scripture contains many such examples; here are some others:
- The glory of pastures are their flowers (Psalm 37:20; Matthew 6:28–30; James 1:10–11)
- The glory of a house is wealth (Psalm 49:16)
- The glory of rulers is the number of their people, and their ability to search out hidden wisdom (Proverbs 14:28; 25:2)
This last point illustrates that a thing can have more than one glory; it is no contradiction to say “the glory” without meaning “the only glory.” Despite the Old Testament describing God’s glory frequently in terms of might, that is not the only glory he has. According to 1 Corinthians 11:7, one of his important glories on earth is man. Which makes good sense, because his glory in heaven is a man as well:
Above the expanse that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone; and on the likeness of the throne was a likeness as the appearance of a man on it above. I saw as it were glowing metal, as the appearance of fire within it all around, from the appearance of his waist and upward; and from the appearance of his waist and downward I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him… This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Yahweh. Ezekiel 1:26–28; cf. Ezek. 3:23; 8:4; 9:3; 10:18; 11:23; 43:2; 1 Corinthians 15:40; Hebrews 1:3
Why is man the glory of God? Because man is made as his image—to directly represent and serve God. [See D. Bnonn Tennant, What is the kingdom of God? Part 1: representation and rulership (January 2017).] Paul himself describes this glory in terms of created origin and purpose, as is clear if you follow his explanations (indicated by the word for):
7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.
For Paul, glory, origin, purpose, and authority are bound up with each other. While many things can be a glory, he has in mind the glory which is tied up with honor and hierarchy (1 Corinthians 11:3–5, 10). He knows that it is glorious to rightly represent the one for whom you were made—to fittingly serve him—and he is concerned to preserve this glory in worship, ensuring its correct place in the hierarchy.
In other words, while woman originates from man and is made for man’s sake—and hence is man’s glory—man in turn originates from God and is made for God’s sake—and hence is God’s glory. Indeed, the man Jesus is “the radiance of his glory” and “the exact representation of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3), into whose likeness we are all being conformed (Romans 8:29; Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:49; Colossians 3:10; 1 John 3:2). When we think of God, especially with respect to his rulership of the earth, the thing which we naturally celebrate, the thing most worthy of honor, is his image—man.
Why, then, is woman the glory of man? Is she not made in the image of God? Any modern Christian who claims not to get at least uneasy reading this passage—and probably tight under the collar—is fibbing. We are so conditioned by feminism we can’t help it.
But Paul does not say that woman is the image of man; he says that she is the glory of man. He distinguishes image and glory—they are related; not identical. Man is the image and glory of God; woman is the glory of man. He does not say “image and glory.” There is a sense in which she is the image of man—since she was made from man (cf. Genesis 5:3)—yet Genesis clearly ascribes God’s image to her also. [ D. Bnonn Tennant, Are women made in the image of God? (October 2018).] She is a subordinate image, being made for the man, rather than for God. Man, being made to reflect and serve God, is God’s glory; woman, being made to reflect and serve man, is man’s glory.
Leaving aside biblical theology for simple embodied experience, we all know that women are the glory of men. They are the thing that, when considering humanity as a whole, men themselves are most inclined to celebrate. If presented with the choice of saving either a man or a woman, we save the woman; we consider them of greater value. One woman’s face launched a thousand ships. Another’s is compared to a summer’s day. Just as the beauty of the lily is the glory of the pasture, so is the beauty of the woman the glory of the man.
Stated succinctly, when we think of God’s presence on earth, the thing most worthy of honor is man. And when we think of man’s presence on earth, the thing most worthy of honor is woman.
What, then, of the long hair? Again, this is self-explanatory. We don’t call them beauty parlors for nothing. The cliché of models in commercials swinging their heads in slow motion to display their—dare I say it—glorious locks is no mere coincidence. And this is not a statistical aberration:
Of course a woman’s long hair is her glory. And of course that hair is the emblematic thing to be defaced by feminists seeking to reject the beauty of femininity. What is the reason that the stereotypical feminist not only cuts her hair short, but goes to the trouble of making it an unnatural color? It is because she understands, as we all do on some level, that comportment is a kind of communication [ D. Bnonn Tennant, Comportment is communication on It’s Good To Be A Man (January 2019).] (hence the term “body language”). Feminists have much they wish to communicate about their opinion of God’s design—and they wish to communicate it with everyone.
It is disgraceful, as nature itself teaches, for a woman to cut off her hair—because one does not treat one’s glory with disdain and dishonor. And it is equally disgraceful for a man to wear his hair long like a woman—not just because he is being effeminate (which is an abomination in itself; Deuteronomy 22:5; 1 Corinthians 6:9 NASB), but also because he is, as it were, stealing a woman’s glory. And this leads us into the next premise in the argument.
Premise 2: It is scandalous for a glory other than God’s to be shown off in worship
This is the assumption that Paul makes and we miss. We miss it because we don’t take seriously what he says about glory, nor connect it to worship. We don’t take it seriously because it makes us uncomfortable even reading that woman is man’s glory, let alone asking what it means. We don’t connect it to worship because we don’t think of worship in terms of entering the heavenly court.
But that is indeed what worship is, as I have documented elsewhere. [ D. Bnonn Tennant, Attending church is entering the heavenly court on It’s Good To Be A Man (January 2019).] That being the case, the natural question to ask is:
Whose glory should be on display in the heavenly court? Whose glory is worship intended to magnify?
I trust we can agree that it is God’s. The cherubs and elders before the throne continually cry out in worship of God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:9–11). Worship is glorification. It is for the purpose of praising the greatness of a thing (e.g., Exodus 12:27; 32:8). God is jealous for how we worship him (Exodus 34:14), and will not overlook idolatry or blasphemy (Exodus 20:4–7; Deuteronomy 8:19).
Notice also that when the elders worship, they render to God their crowns, which in Scripture are the symbols not of rule—that is the scepter (e.g., Genesis 49:10; Ezekiel 19:14; Revelation 2:27)—but of glory (e.g., Isaiah 28:5; Hebrews 2:9; 1 Peter 5:4).
As I just observed, a man wearing long hair, which is created to be the woman’s glory, is stealing what rightly belongs only to her. But by the same logic, bringing the glory of man—that is woman—into worship, which is expressly for God’s glory, is stealing what rightly belongs only to him. Similarly, a woman bringing her glory—that is, long hair—into worship is doing the same thing.
Providentially, my son has just finished his morning Bible reading, and needs help understanding Deuteronomy 17:1:
You shall not sacrifice to Yahweh your God an ox or a sheep in which is a blemish, any defect whatever, for that is an abomination to Yahweh your God.
Why is it an abomination, a detestable thing, disgusting and hateful, to sacrifice a perfectly good beast to God if it has even a wonky horn or a bad patch of skin on its tum? Because it communicates something: that God is worthy of second-rate gifts; that he deserves less than perfection; that, in the end, we really think we can keep the best for ourselves, rather than return it to him. The problem which my eight-year-old had with understanding this was not the symbolism, but the vocabulary. Once he knew what blemish and defect meant, he was easily able to explain why this command is true. I believe his exact words were, “Duh.”
To put another glory on display in worship is a reversed, mirror image of bringing God a blemished lamb. In both cases we are saying, in effect, “We think this is worthy of your glory. The lamb is good enough for you. The other glory is good enough to occupy the same space as yours.”
God does not agree. The way in which we worship matters. To have another glory on display—a glory that simply by merit of being present is competing with his, suggesting itself as worthy of appearing alongside him—is embodied blasphemy. And glory that is present alongside his suggests also that we may worship the creature, rather than the creator, who is blessed forever! Amen—and is thus implied idolatry.
So what can be done?
Conclusion: Therefore, the other two glories must be covered
Paul is concerned to steer a path between two ditches that he considers unacceptable:
- Other glory being on display in worship;
- Women, as bearers of other glory, being excluded from worship.
The natural solution, implemented as SOP in all the congregations of God (1 Corinthians 11:16), is for women to veil themselves. This neatly deals with both problems: it covers women’s long hair, concealing their glory; simultaneously it covers them, concealing—in only a marginally more symbolic sense—man’s glory.
In this way, God’s glory is the exclusive focus of worship; every other glory is appropriately covered so that his alone may be seen, praised, magnified, worshiped.
When we understand this logic, we can readily see that Paul’s reference to “praying and prophesying” (1 Cor. 11:4 etc) is a synecdoche for worship in general; any time we are engaged in an activity exclusively devoted to God’s glory, any time we enter the heavenly court, all other glories must be covered.
Excellent article. Until now I have only been fixated on arguments that prove that headcoverings are for today. But now I see that God’s glory is literally at stake! Worship is the most important and serious thing for us creatures to get right. All the worse that very few churches in the west take this text seriously.
Also something that many people seem to miss – It is specifically when prophesying and praying in public, that women are commanded to wear the head covering; i.e. when they are participating, not simply when attending and listening.
>Even if we can’t figure out what Paul means by describing these three glories, we are required to believe him, because this a revealed truth breathed out by God.
agreed, so when I ask some more trivial questions of you, understand it’s not an objection to the important part, which is to submit to the plain instructions regardless of intimate comprehension.
if I’m not misunderstanding you, the point of veiling is a reminder that we’re here to worship god, not other humans, not ourselves, not nature… so why only woman’s head to be covered? not man’s, say, muscles, or something, since their strength is their glory? could not a church easily descend into worship of man or material or nature if there was no pussy around to pedestalize?
perhaps that question answers itself…
also, why do you think long hair is considered here to be a disgrace for men? is that something that changed over with christ’s sacrifice, because samson’s long hair was not only glorious but blessed, and I think I remember some israelite tribe or two where the males having long hair was part of their worship. could be misremembering that though. also, women seem to like men with long hair, and it’s popular in hollywood. not that the whims of women and pop culture sanctifies something, but why would that be the case if it is contrary to nature?
This doesn’t make sense to me. Isn’t offering the best of what one has the essence of worship? Hence the unblemished animals. If women’s hair is the greatest glory that men have, wouldn’t we want to offer that to God in worship, rather than concealing it? The elders, after all, do not hide or cover their crowns when worshiping: they cast them before the throne.
The logic of the article turns on the idea that a woman, or maybe the beauty of a woman or the beauty of her hair, is an offering to God akin to a blemished animal. That just doesn’t ring true to me. A woman’s beauty is less acceptable to God than an unblemished ram? or even a turtledove? or some fine flour mixed with oil? Is she actually glorious?
What if the idea is that the woman is the glory of man in the sense that she is for the man’s own enjoyment? If this is the case, the problem with the woman going uncovered in God’s presence is not that it insults God by making an inferior offering, but that it shames her husband by giving to God what rightfully belongs to only her man. And likewise a man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, Christ, by refusing to give him the glory that is his own to enjoy. The text does say, after all, not that God is insulted by a woman going uncovered but that the woman’s head (i.e., her man) is dishonored and the woman herself shamed.
Solomon praises his beloved as a walled garden, a spring locked up, a fountain sealed. She is glorious behind her veil. In psalm 45, the king’s daughter is all glorious within. The beauty of a woman is perfected in modesty; it is intensified when it is kept for only her husband. But when that same glory is exposed publicly, it is described biblically as one’s shame being exposed (e.g., Isa 47:3). That which is a glory becomes a shame when exposed to those who do not own it. The desecration of the temple is to have its inner courts of glory tread by pagan feet. I can easily think of ways to push back on this, but perhaps the logic of head covering in 1 Co 11 is working along similar lines.
“not man’s, say, muscles, or something, since their strength is their glory?”
Please do not go shirtless to church.
“samson’s long hair was not only glorious but blessed, and I think I remember some israelite tribe or two where the males having long hair was part of their worship. ”
Long hair was part of the Nazirite vow a man could take. It was generally temporary, but Samson – unusually – was dedicated as a Nazirite from birth. John the Baptist also had long hair and exhibited some Nazirite-like behaviors, although opinions differ on whether or not he was an actual Nazirite (some people believe Levites could/should not take the Nazirite vow).
Given the ‘seven locks’ (sometimes translated ‘braids’) of Samson’s hair and John referring to his own wild appearance (and the fact that people thought he had a demon), I suspect that this kind of hair was unkempt – in dreadlocks, perhaps. One translation of Judges 6:5 even says ‘let the locks of his hair grow wild’ instead of ‘long’. If so, it wouldn’t have looked feminine so much as wild-man-of-Borneo: in contrast to, say, Absalom, who considered his long hair a glory. I’m speculating, though.
Interestingly, the Nazirite vow could be performed by both men and women (Numbers 6:2); so if it were transgressive for a man to grow his hair long, it was equally transgressive for a woman to shave her head at the completion of the vow. Either way, it seems to have been an exception to the norm.
“not that the whims of women and pop culture sanctifies something, but why would that be the case if it is contrary to nature?”
You could say the same about female superheroes, the fetishisation of lesbians by men and gay men by women, and so on, no?
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
Chavoux: I don’t think your distinction between attending and participating makes sense of worship. To attend is to participate. Moreover, even if that distinction holds up, to attend is still to be present in the heavenly court, to be present at an event dedicated exclusively to God’s glory. So Paul’s argument would still hold.
For this reason, we must take praying and prophesying for what it appears to be on a natural reading: a synecdoche for worshiping in general.
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
Alexander: the elders return the glory of God to him in worship. It is a display of deference; an extension of ordinary worship itself. That’s a categorical distinction to offering their glory to him. It might be a little strange if they were to cast their wives down before the throne ;)
This isn’t correct at all. I said that bringing another glory into worship is a mirror image of bringing a blemished animal; i.e., it is a reverse analogy. I’ve updated the post to make the reversed nature of the analogy clearer. But the logic of the article doesn’t turn on this analogy; I used the analogy simply to illuminate the logic from another angle. The logic of the article turns on the idea that only God’s glory should be on display in worship; therefore other glory should be covered.
Your idea that a woman should not be on display because her glory is reserved for her husband would actually strengthen that argument—but it also unfortunately rings false, since otherwise the logic requires that married women always cover their heads. But we know from history that it was normal for Greco-Roman women to go in public unveiled (unlike Jews), and Paul makes no effort to correct this whatsoever; he is concerned exclusively with covering in worship. I do agree with the general thrust of your comment about modesty, but it doesn’t seem we can take it as far as you want to without rubbing against the grain of the New Testament.
Your objection about the man being dishonored, rather than God, is easily answered because his uncovered wife is his glory, and so he is the one acting shamefully by displaying it in worship. She is disgraced by displaying her glory (her hair), and he is disgraced by displaying his glory (her). It’s really no more complicated than that.
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
YoreyC: I will cover the issue of the Nazarite vow in a separate article. It’s certainly an important question for this topic, and I believe one that is relatively easy to explain; but even if we couldn’t explain it, I can’t see how a single, divinely-authorized exception can refute the argument Paul is making in 1 Corinthians 11.
I would quibble with you on the extensive use of a woman’s glory.
The strongest claim you could make for the idea that a woman’s hair (as opposed to her head?) needs to be covered because it is a woman’s glory is that it is merely implied. The explicit argument in the passage is quite different.
The passage says that long hair is a woman’s glory because “long hair is given to her as a covering”. In other words, it is womanly (a woman’s glory), not manly, to have a covering; it is likewise appropriate that women (not men) should cover their heads in Church meetings.
I considered the possibility that you meant the glory of a woman was not unworthy of God but too good, as it were. I had decided you didn’t mean that because it would imply that the glory of man outshines the glory of God, and that seems ridiculous. If the woman isn’t too good for God and isn’t too bad for God, I just don’t understand how a blemished sacrifice is analogous, reversed or not.
Perhaps you aren’t thinking in terms of men and women being offered to God but just being displayed? If that is the idea, to whom are they being displayed? If displayed to God, then are they not some kind of offering? If displayed to other men to aid in their worship — I don’t know, that whole idea feels off, whether speaking of men or women. There is something I am not grasping here. Maybe you could unpack your idea of worship more and what it means to be on display in worship.
The idea I put forth does suggest that women would always be covered in public. I don’t know how to feel about that, but I see it as one of the possible assumptions in the passage. Paul is addressing some subset in Corinth who wanted to change the tradition he had handed down to them. It may be that everyone agreed that women should cover their heads in mixed company, but some were agitating that when praying or prophesying at home or in an assembly of women only, then they should uncover their heads. I am not sure if this is a likely scenario, but seeing as Paul forbids women from prophesying in the assembly in chapter 14, I think it is a possibility.
I am not trying to argue for a different reading that I think to be correct but rather am trying to generate adjacent ideas that might lead somewhere. Your central point about Paul’s argument revolving around glory is a good and useful one. I am not convinced that your premise #2 is on point, perhaps because I don’t understand it, and so was looking for another way that the logic of glories being covered or uncovered might work, even if it leads to uncomfortable places.
> Your objection about the man being dishonored, rather than God, is easily answered because his uncovered wife is his glory, and so he is the one acting shamefully by displaying it in worship.
The text does not say that the man dishonors himself by having his wife’s head uncovered, but that she dishonors her head. She is the one acting in such a way as to shame him. (Which, come to think of it, would seem more true if the question were about what she does when he is not around.)
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
Alistair: I take your point, but with two caveats.
The first is that if this interpretation of v. 15b is correct, and I’m sympathetic to it, it is by no means at odds with what I’ve said about glory in this piece. It can be glorious for a woman to be covered by her hair, and inglorious for a man, while simultaneously her hair is glorious in its beauty and allure.
The second is that this interpretation is by no means certain. Troy Martin makes a strong case, though strange to our ears, that we should interpret peribolaion in v. 15b as testicle: “for her hair is given to her as a testicle.” The idea is that the contrast between long and short hair has to do with Hippocratic physiology, which took hair to be a kind of semen sponge. Paul may be playing on this view to emphasize the sexual nature of a woman’s long hair, and how a man with similar hair is playing the woman. I’ll be dealing with this issue in a separate piece.
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
Alexander: I’m not sure I can make my argument clearer. It seems like either you get it, or you don’t:
I’m presupposing that comportment is communication. That how we act signals something. That embodied life is at times inherently symbolic. Your question about to whom the glory is being displayed suggests that you either disagree with this, or haven’t fully grasped the idea of it. Ultimately it seems to cast doubt on the very idea that our actions just do glorify or dishonor God, regardless of who we think we are performing for, or who is watching.
Right, thanks for the correction. I shouldn’t reply so late at night, apparently. To clarify my view on this point: I think Paul is using a double entendre in vv. 4–5; his choice of words seems calculated to be deliberately ambiguous. So a woman shames her literal head (i.e., her hair) by uncovering it in the presence of the greater glory of God; which simultaneously shames her symbolic head (i.e., her husband) for the same reason: his glory is uncovered before the greater glory of God. By the same token, a man shames his literal head by covering it, and thus himself, when he should be on display as God’s glory; and shames his symbolic head (i.e., the Lord Jesus) by refusing to put his glory on display as is right.
The whole issue turns on what glory it is fitting to reveal in worship. What are we glorifying, whether intentionally or unintentionally?
Aside from the issue your interpretation creates with women always being covered in public—which, again, goes beyond both the text and historical practice—it also creates another problem, in that it would apply only to married women—which also goes beyond both the text and historical practice.
Bnonn, I agree that the interpretation does not contradict your article, but it does mean your article is using concepts not explicitly supported by the text. A further look reminded me that it is the woman *having* long hair that is her glory, because it is a covering. The hair’s luciousness and beauty – glory in that sense – is not in view.
I’ll look forward to your article on the alternative interpretation. I’ve seen it before but find it had to credit as a possibility. It seems even further removed from the text than most other odd interpretations.
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
Thanks Steve. To answer a couple of the questions you raise in that article:
1. I’m using the term veil because I think in general that is the best option. A shawl, scarf, or anything that adequately covers the hair without becoming a fashion accessory (which would send a mixed message about concealing glory). However, as you note, in some contexts this is complicated by the cultural connotations of existing veiling practices. I’m not *hugely* swayed by that argument, because frankly if Scripture says to do something we should do it, even if other people are doing basically the same thing for other, wicked reasons. But I would want to try to distinguish between Christian and Muslim veiling in an Islamic setting. I’ll talk more about the kind of covering I think should be used later in the series.
2. I don’t think my example of how men value women would have any real traction if it were not underwritten by their objective value. I am taking it as an obvious implication of Paul’s comments that women are the glory of man, whether or not men themselves treat women as such. However, in our culture we do treat women as our glory, so it’s easy to appeal to some ways we do that in order to demonstrate what it means.
I also interact with some of your previous head coverings posts in later installments of this series ;p
Have you got a KJC chain reference Bible? In mine, in the explanation at the bottom of the page it says that a woman’s long hair is her covering, and if she has short hair she needs to grow it so she has a covering. (Paraphrased because I’m at work). It’s quite clear there that no external covering is necessary, and long hair – the covering that God provided – is sufficient.
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
I do not have that Bible, which is good since apparently its authors are very poor exegetes. 1 Corinthians 11:5–6 makes it absolutely clear that the covering is not to be identified with the hair:
This passage is incoherent if the hair is the covering.
Sorry that should be KJV chain reference Bible.
Later, when I get home and have my Bible handy, I can copy the exact wording, rather than my paraphrasing.
Great article, thanks!
Bnonn and Steve.
I might be missing something here, but why are neither of you using the passage to define how women are the glory of man? Surely v8 gives an explanation as to why women are the glory of man, and comparing v8 with “image” in v7 would surely shed more light.
i) I’m not offering a definition because I’m not presenting my own interpretation. I’m commenting on Bnonn’s post.
ii) It’s unclear how v8 is what makes women the glory of men. It’s up to you to provide more of an argument, since that’s your claim.
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
If I’m following Alistair’s reasoning here, he sees glory in terms of origin and created purpose. He’s following Paul’s “for”s:
In other words, man originates from God and is made for God’s sake; hence he is God’s glory. Woman originates from man and is made for man’s sake; hence she is man’s glory. This is a point I agree with, which I should have included in the article; I’ll add it when I have time. What I’m not sure about is what kind of difference Alistair thinks this makes to my overall argument.
I’m finding it difficult to see how it’s unclear. The word “gar” at the beginning of v8 contextually carries the force of “because”, and the addition of the word “image” in v7 referring to man and missing when talking about woman provides a less obvious but still reasonable parallel to consider, made stronger when comparing the “from and for” content of v8 with the image of God as relates to man.
If v8 does not continue the thought from v7, then Paul is a terrible writer.
If it’s still unclear, then I suggest you read it assuming that v8 does relate to the end of v7 and then assuming it doesn’t and see what makes the most sense.
I’d be interested to hear your argument otherwise. I’m happy to be shown I’m wrong. It just makes the plainest sense of the text to my mind.
I didn’t see your comment before I posted my quick and probably inadequate reply to Steve.
You’ve outlined the basic idea.
It doesn’t make a huge difference to your argument at all. I was just pointing out that your discussions of how a woman is the glory of God neglected to mention what Paul outlined in the text.
“I was just pointing out that your discussions of how a woman is the glory of MAN neglected to mention what Paul outlined in the text.”
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
Fair enough; I’ve updated the article now. Thanks for pointing that out.
So, having read your article, thought about it overnight, I’m not sure I read the passage the same way you do.
Your emphasis is on glory. However, I think the emphasis in 1 Cor 11 is on authority.
In verse 7, Paul says man is God’s glory. If I read you right, then with your reasoning, man should be veiled, not just over the head, but in whole, because man’s glory would compete with God’s. However, this very verse says a man should not be veiled. So I don’t think the issue here is competing glories. All creaturely glories reflect their Creator, not the creature.
I think the issue is made clear in verse 10: a woman should wear a symbol of authority on her head because of the angels.
The crux, I believe, is the “symbol of authority” part. Man is under the authority of God, and is God’s glory. Woman is under the authority of man, and is man’s glory. Therefore, she ought to bear a clear marker she is under authority. To do otherwise is an affront to heavenly creatures.
The question then becomes “what is the symbol?” Just as hospitality changes through time and culture, so do markers of authority. I think a very good argument could be made that the marker of authority is what’s important, not exactly what it is, or where it goes.
I think there’s one thing we can agree on: if you are convicted that head covering is right, it needs to be an actual head covering. A little lace piece which serves to beautify the wearer, does not qualify. I’m looking at you, children of the anabaptists.
It wasn’t the aim of my post to exegete 1 Cor 11. I was simply commenting on Bnonn’s argument on his own terms. Surely that’s not a mysterious distinction. That said:
i) One issue is what precisely the gar/because refers back to? Does v8 ground the whole of v7, or does it ground a particular element? Is v8 the basis for the claim that man is the image of God, that man is the glory of God, or that the woman is the glory of man?
ii) In addition, Paul balances v8 with vv11-12. Does that also ground the claim that the woman is the glory of the man? Since v8 and vv-11-12 are opposite principles, it’s hard to see how that works.
iii) Likewise, what is meant by the “glory of God” in this context? Bnonn has said what he thinks it means, but that doesn’t tell me what you think it means.
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
Kaleb: I agree that Paul links glory and authority. That is the flip side of who is made for whom. But Paul explicitly explains his comments about authority/headship in terms of glory. That is central to his explanation.
As for whether a head covering can be replaced with another symbol, I’ll discuss that in another installment, but bluntly I think it’s an effort to weasel out of a clear command which is simply embarrassing in the modern day.
“In verse 7, Paul says man is God’s glory. If I read you right, then with your reasoning, man should be veiled, not just over the head, but in whole, because man’s glory would compete with God’s. However, this very verse says a man should not be veiled.”
You’re confused. A man’s glory is not his own body. If a man were veiled, he would be veiling GOD’S glory (“man is the glory of God”). If you want to veil man’s glory you have to veil woman (“woman is the glory of man”); which as, Bnonn points out, veiling her hair does, as you can’t cover a woman’s hair without covering the woman.
Steve, I’m not sure I’ve got enough time to answer everything to your satisfaction. I’ll give it a go, but I don’t want to have to break everything down to its smallest part – I’m kind of hoping the connections will be clear enough to avoid that.
As I said to Bnonn, I was pointing out that neither he or you were dealing with what the passage actually said. Even though you were dealing specifically with what Bnonn wrote, I thought the overall idea was to figure out what the text meant, and so dealing with Bnonn’s comments on the text should involve looking at the text itself.
In answer to your questions:
i) 1 corinthians 11:3-10 repeats this basic pattern: a teaching about man (3a, 4, 7a [perhaps 8a and 9a]); a longer contrasting teaching about women (3b, 5-6, 7b – 10 [or alt. 7b, 8b, 9b-10]).
Even more, 7-10 is written in an almost chiastic structure: man ought not cover his head (A) because he is the image (B) and glory of God (C); woman is the glory of man (C’), made from and for man (B’) and so should cover their heads (A’).
V8 provides the ground for woman being the glory of man (and why man is not the glory of woman).
ii) Vv11-12 is an important aside. The discussion of the glory of man ends with the conclusion in v10, i.e. that the woman should have authority on her head. Paul is concerned that a broader view of the relationship between men and women is understood, not just the particular rationale involved in the discussion about why women should cover their heads.
iii) I think Bnonn’s understanding of glory is a good one, but the more I pull on the thread that is the glory of woman in v15, the less I agree with his understanding that covering a woman’s head in the assembly covers her glory and I’m wondering if it is really meant to communicate the covering of man’s glory, as well.
Still some thinking going on here about that one.
Why shouldn’t old men also cover their head, if their grey hair is also a glory to them? Is that not a competing glory as well?
Similarly, if the glory of a house is it’s wealth, shouldn’t that somehow be covered when gathering in a wealthy place?
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
This is a good question in the sense that you’re seeking to test the principle more broadly. But it’s a bad question in the sense that it misunderstands the principle.
Again, Paul is not concerned with just anything that can be described as a glory. He is concerned with the glory that is bound up with worship: the image of God, and the hierarchy that results between God and man.
That said, I think we’d all agree that it would highly inappropriate for a man to flaunt his wealth in worship, just as it is highly inappropriate for a woman to flaunt her physical beauty (1 Peter 3:3–4). That would look like an effort to compete with the glory of the heavenly court. There is a road between the ditches of ostentatious display and apathetic shabbiness.
I’m looking forward to the rest of your series. But as my thinking has been racing on, I wanted to mount a stronger challenge to your main idea. So I’ve taken a leaf out of Steve’s book.
I resent Bnonn’s ad hominem attacks on how I dress for church. On second thought, he has no idea how I dress for church, so he couldn’t be talking about me. So by taking offense at his statement I unwittingly revealed my apathetically shabby church attire. Now I need to figure out a way to delete this comment :-)
Good article. Are you going to make it available to download (i.e. PDF)
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
Peter, thanks. I expect to revise this article and probably add another to preface it before moving on with the series. I’ve been corresponding with Alistair via another forum, and have developed a number of biblical-theological threads I hadn’t seen before.
Once the series is complete, I will convert it into a book, as I did with my kingdom series (now The Spine of Scripture). I can produce PDFs on request as well, if you want to share it or print it out for some reason.
I was going to put here the exact wording from my KJV chain-reference Bible regarding long hair being a woman’s covering. Instead, I’ll post this link to Michael Pearl’s take on it.
A recent sermon on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16
Bnonn had better be extra careful what he says in response to John Carpenter, infamous horror flick director, lest creepy things begin to happen.
One huge obvious point is being left out of this discussions, and that’s the high likelihood that the passage in question is talking about genitals and is thus referring to an ancient misunderstanding about how human anatomy worked.
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
Rolo, it’s not being ignored. I’m familiar with Martin’s paper, and will speak to it in future installments of this series. It’s simply irrelevant to the argument from glory.
I think Martin makes a good case, but that’s not the same as a compelling or convincing one. How much we feel the force of his alternative depends heavily on how much we feel we can’t explain the traditional reading—“her hair is given to her for a covering.” Many commentators do feel the pinch here because it seems Paul is contradicting himself: is the hair the covering, or is the veil? But as I will argue soon, there are clear biblical-theological reasons to see both as a covering, without the need of a novel reading.
Moreover, the author of Hebrews 1:12 certainly didn’t mean that God was going to roll up the heavens like a testicle, so comparing Paul’s usage to the most immediate similar context gives us no reason to think that peribolaion must be Hippocratic language. Indeed, the allusion to Psalm 104:26 instead gives us a vector into the conceptual nexus of majesty and veiling. Robes are frequently associated with God’s glory in the Old Testament. Aside from how God wraps or covers himself with a luminous cloud (cf. Ps. 104:2), there is also a parallel between that cloud and his robe in Isaiah 6:1, 4. In v. 1, the hem of his robe fills the temple in a rather impossible-sounding way; in v. 4, it is the smoke that fills it. Perhaps we are meant to wonder if the smoke somehow is the robe.
I don’t discount the possibility that Paul specifically uses peribolaion to evoke a double entendre, to allude to Hippocratic physiology—but I don’t think that is his primary meaning. Certainly he may also want his audience to think of how sensual a woman’s hair is; that it is akin to a sexual organ, and therefore should be covered in worship. That would sit alongside the broader argument from glory, and add an extra plank in the case for modesty. But note, if that’s what he’s doing, it is still true that women’s hair is sensual, even though Hippocratic physiology is false. So Martin’s and Heiser’s conclusion that head coverings are no longer required is bunk even on their own terms.
Hmm, well I look forward to reading what else you have to say. Suffice it to say, however, this is a passage whose meaning has been hotly debated by well meaning scholars for a long time. I’m curious what original insights you have to bring to the table.
To argue that Paul’s mandate for head coverings is based on a misunderstanding of human anatomy and hence can be ignored is to declare that section of 1 Corinthians erroneous. Buying that line of argument requires that one dismiss the authority of the apostle and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Why? As Heiser and others have argued, if ancient people had this misunderstanding of human anatomy then it makes perfect sense for Paul to give advice in accordance with the contemporary way people thought. What else was he supposed to do? Give them an anatomy lesson way ahead of their current knowledge?
If the statement that “her hair is given her for a peribolaion,” is completely false, because it is a misunderstanding of human anatomy, then Paul has stated as fact that which is fallacious. That would mean the scriptures are fallible.
Paul was not into pandering to the sensibilities of his contemporary audience. Giving his audience lessons in truth way beyond their current knowledge is exactly what Paul was called to do, at the peril of his life. If they thought women’s hair should be covered for modesty and in fact they were wrong and it should be uncovered, Paul was more than capable of telling them so. He set them right on so many other things, why not this one? I mean, if Paul can explain spiritual mysteries to them, why do you think that anatomical ones are beyond him? If he can explain the resurrection (“what you sow is not the body that is to be, but the bare kernel…”), why can’t he explain hair?
Well, this gets into the whole issue of inerrancy, and how inerrancy should be understood in light of the fact the Bible’s an ancient book written to ancient people. When you say Paul provided them truths “far” beyond his contemporaries understanding most if not all of what you’re referring to is spiritual or moral truths. Paul wasn’t teaching them advanced science like genetics or astronomy. Such topics would have been a huge distraction from his main mission of enlightening these people spiritually and morally. If these people truly believed hair had some sort of relation to genitalia then it would serve Paul little to try to argue that point when a much more important spiritual matter was at hand. Assuming Martin’s theory is correct, Paul like many biblical authors accommodated the false scientific ideas of his time in order to communicate deeper more important truths. I don’t know what your thoughts on inerrancy are, but this is perfectly in line with many sophisticated takes on the doctrine.
>Paul wasn’t teaching them advanced science like genetics or astronomy. Such topics would have been a huge distraction from his main mission
therefore your main mission is… what, now?
Regarding accommodation: https://frame-poythress.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2014RethinkingAccomodation.pdf
Yoreyc, I’m not sure what your point is?
seemed to me you were making “huge distractions” with “advanced science and genetics and astronomy” yourself, but re-reading now I think I mistook you.
That ‘women are to cover their glory in the presence of God’ makes the comment about the angels make sense- angels cover their head and feet in the throne room because they pay reverence to the glory of God. Thank you very much for the article. It is brave, in today’s world, to write the truth.
> Aside from the issue your interpretation creates with women always being covered in public—which, again, goes beyond both the text and historical practice—it also creates another problem, in that it would apply only to married women—which also goes beyond both the text and historical practice.
Does it go beyond the text? I think Alexander’s argument was that Paul was addressing the Corinthian church where the women would cover in general and then take it off in worship. That’s possible, but I think more likely Paul just assumed that women should wear them in public. Jewish women afaik at the time wore them in public and Christians adopted the practice, carrying it forth even /in America/ until 100 years ago. Baptist, Presby, Catholic, Orthodox, etc. would cover /in public/. The Amish and other anabaptists still do. Orthodox Jewish women, even to this day, still wear snoods in public. Calvin thought it would be a great shame if women were to stop wearing their veils in public. I agree.
There are numerous arguments for covering in public:
* History of the church has women mostly doing it, following Jewish custom
* In 1 Cor 11, it’s likely that Paul just assumes that women wear them in public given Jewish custom (and likely local Corinthian custom), so he’s talking to Corinthian women who were taking it off in church for some reason. If you take Paul to not be talking about the assembly in 1 Cor 11, this means women should cover when praying or prophesying anywhere. If you take Paul to be addressing the assembly in 1 Cor 11, that doesn’t /exclude/ wearing them in public as much of church history has done. In fact the church may be a light in this regard. In the same way that Paul ties male leadership in 1 Tim 2 to creation, he ties veiling to creation. What’s good for the church is good for the world, we are salt and light.
* Veiling is seen by many as modest and so in the same way a husband might ask his wife to wear dresses in public for modesty, he might ask her to wear a snood, shawl, hijab, etc. for modesty. Would also be a middle finger to feminism. You may say that we don’t have this custom anymore in the West, and I’d say — “let’s bring it back, baby!” coverthathead.com or some such
For these reasons
When are we getting the next installment? You’re killing me bro. 😂😂😂😂
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
Honestly this is probably going to turn into a book, but you know how many others of those I am also writing…
You have my email? Right? I’d be interested to see what you have on this topic. ;)
I enjoyed your interview with Joel Webbon on this topic of head coverings. I wanted to add a thought and this seems to be the best/only place to do it.
John 12:3 Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
We all recognize this as a beautiful scene but when we consider that Mary used her glory to wash the dusty feet of Jesus it is even more precious.
Can you provide a link to that interview, please?
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
Here it is:
Genesis 2 (KJV)
²² And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
²³ And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
Notice what Adam said in verse 23, this is what apostle Paul meant when he said the woman is the glory of the man. Adam GROLIFIED HIMSELF in Eve.
Furthermore we see God glorifying Himself for Job when talking to satan:
Job 1 (KJV)
⁸ And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
See there? That’s an example of man being the glory of God. What’s your opinion on this?